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Day in The Life of a Nurse - Sara's story

“Getting to know the person is a big part of the job and that’s why I want to be a mental health nurse.”

I’m studying to be a Mental Health Nurse and I’m currently in the second year of my course and I get to work on placement on Mental Health wards, gaining valuable experience for when I qualify as a nurse.

I work on a crisis ward which looks after the most vulnerable people, many of whom are regular visitors struggling with ongoing complex mental health problems. My shift starts at 7.00am but I like to get to the ward a few minutes early to prepare myself for the shift. It’s important to feel confident and alert before meeting the patients and crucial that you try to not bring any stress from your personal life to the ward. You have to be 100% focused on the patients and their needs.

Once my team and I have done a handover with the previous shift, learning all about the people who are currently on the ward, we make sure the patients get up and take their medication. Some people are on 30 minute watches which means we have to check on them very regularly and observe any significant behaviour relating to their mental health problems.

There’s always paperwork to do but it’s important for each patient’s history to be tracked and any new developments noted to help with their recovery. We also have to liaise with doctors and organise appointments for them to visit patients who have underlying health problems.

As well as all the admin work, it’s vitally important that as a mental health nurses we spend a significant amount of time getting to know each patient. This is the main reason I chose mental health nursing over adult nursing, which can be very task-focused. Nursing mentally ill patients requires you to spend quality time with them, picking apart their lives and helping them fit it all back together again. Getting to know the person is a big part of the job and that’s why I want to be a mental health nurse.

The crisis ward team are always keen to get patients off the ward and doing activities like cooking classes, creating sociable situations where patients can express themselves and relax. You wouldn’t necessarily think so, but humour is a big part of our day. Having a laugh and a joke with patients is a great way to get them to feel at ease and open up about how they are feeling that day. It’s also a great way for staff to release any tension they are feeling during the shift.

There are things I find difficult about working with people struggling with mental illness. It’s always sad to see people returning to the ward after a relapse and when those who are very much in crisis start hurting themselves it’s upsetting and difficult to deal with. It’s very easy to want to fix people yourself but you have to let them do it for themselves – I do find that frustrating at times as well.

My ambition is to be the best nurse I can be, helping anyone I can. The help that myself and other nurses have given people has definitely changed their lives and I want to continue to do that.

In my spare time I like to unwind by going to the gym, reading, cooking and spending time with my family. It’s important to have these outlets after a busy and demanding shift.

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